The Republicans who will vote against Boehner for Speaker

Greg Nash

Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) is slated to win another two years as Speaker on Tuesday when House lawmakers cast their first vote of a new Congress entirely controlled by Republicans.

{mosads}But don’t expect the public roll call on the House floor to be drama-free.

Like two years ago, a disorganized but vocal band of conservatives has vowed to oppose Boehner, either by calling out someone else’s name during the vote or simply abstaining or voting “present.”

Over the weekend, Tea Party Reps. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.) and Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) said they would challenge Boehner for the Speaker’s gavel in a last-ditch bid to unseat him. One outspoken critic, Rep. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), has openly plotted overthrowing Boehner, telling a radio station before Christmas he’s been huddling with 16 to 18 other conservatives to find a viable alternative.

Jones told a local newspaper Saturday he’s now rallying behind GOP Rep. Daniel Webster, the former Florida state House Speaker whose name will also be offered on the floor Tuesday.

And last week, Rep. Thomas Massie playfully tweeted a photo of a McDonald’s drive-through sign reading: “NEXT SPEAKER PLEASE.” The Kentucky Republican made it official Saturday, saying he’ll support someone else for Speaker, though he wouldn’t name names.

Reps. Steve King (R-Iowa), Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) and Jim Bridenstine (R-Okla.) are also in the “dump Boehner” camp. Bridenstine declared in a lengthy news release that he couldn’t back Boehner after the Speaker last month struck a $1.1 trillion deal with Democrats to fund the government without doing more to stop President Obama’s executive actions.

Gohmert felt the same way, announcing his bid Sunday on “Fox News.”

“It was a terrible strategy that follows a number of years of broken promises,” Gohmert said. “It’s time for a change.”

A handful of Tea Party freshmen also could defy the Speaker minutes after they’re sworn in by Boehner. Incoming GOP Reps. Barry Loudermilk and Jody Hice of Georgia and John Ratcliffe of Texas are among those who pledged on the campaign trail that they’d stand up to Boehner once in office.

Freshman Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.), who knocked off former Majority Leader Eric Cantor in the GOP primary last summer and took office in November, initially said he would back Boehner on the floor, but he reversed course Sunday night. “While I like Speaker Boehner personally, he will not have my support for Speaker,” Brat wrote in an op-ed on Breitbart.

Few see any serious threat to Boehner’s hold on power. The midterm elections not only handed House Republicans their largest majority in generations, they gave Boehner, the Speaker since 2011, a bigger cushion to absorb defections from members in his own party. Now, nearly 30 Republicans would need to vote against the incumbent leader to force a second ballot.

Even then, Boehner’s allies have pledged they would hold successive votes on the floor until Boehner is reelected with a simple majority of all the House seats.

In addition, neither Gohmert nor Yoho are seen as credible contenders with broad support in the conference. Gohmert is a longtime gadfly to House leadership, while Yoho, a veterinarian, worked closely with Boehner and his team last month to pass his immigration bill. Some conservative groups dismissed the Yoho measure as a purely “symbolic” vote to oppose Obama’s immigration actions and said the legislation gave cover to Republicans to vote for the unpopular trillion-dollar funding bill dubbed the “cromnibus.”

Fox News’s Sean Hannity and the Tea Party Leadership Fund have been pushing Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-S.C.) as a replacement, but Gowdy has repeatedly said he’s not interested. In fact, Gowdy seconded Boehner’s nomination as Speaker during the closed-door GOP leadership elections back in November, and the conservative congressman is Boehner’s hand-picked point man investigating the 2012 Benghazi terrorism attacks.

Instead, the long-shot anti-Boehner campaign is seen more as a symbolic protest — a way to embarrass the Speaker, voice frustration with GOP leaders for cutting fiscal deals with Democrats and put more pressure on Boehner’s team to take a harder line against Obama in his final two years in office.

GOP leadership aides are downplaying any dissent. Under Boehner’s leadership, they said, Republicans have built the largest majority since the Harry Truman administration, an electoral achievement that allows Boehner’s team to start the new Congress “from a position of strength” in dealing with the White House.

A pair of GOP scandals over the holidays didn’t help Boehner’s cause, but aides said he took “decisive action” that displayed his “firm hand listening to, and leading, the House Republican Conference.” In a phone call, Boehner successfully urged Rep. Michael Grimm (R-N.Y.) to resign after Grimm pleaded guilty to felony tax evasion, while the Speaker stood by Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) after Scalise apologized for speaking to a group in 2002 that included white supremacists.

Distractions aside, Boehner and incoming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) have spent weeks coordinating efforts for the new GOP-dominated 114th Congress, aides said. The biggest test will come this month as Republicans try to halt Obama’s executive actions on immigration.

“The Speaker is looking forward to working with all of our members over the next two years on a robust agenda that advances common-sense, conservative solutions,” Boehner spokesman Kevin Smith said.

Exactly two years ago, Tea Party Republicans tried to overthrow Boehner on the House floor. But the coup attempt was disorganized and some of the participants backed out at the last minute, leaving Boehner foes seven votes shy of forcing a second ballot. Twelve Republicans — including Gohmert, Yoho, Jones, Massie and Bridenstine — eventually went on record opposing Boehner.

But others in that dissenting dozen, including Reps. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.), Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) and Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), have had a change of heart and said they will back Boehner this time around.

Other notable conservatives who said they’ll shout out Boehner’s name during the Tuesday roll call are Arizona Reps. Dave Schweikert and Matt Salmon.

“Far more conservatives support Boehner than oppose him,” a GOP leadership aide said.

Still, with the Boehner vote nearing, conservative media outlets and blogs have been trying to gin up support for some new blood. Several are pointing to an EMC Research survey that revealed only 25 percent of GOP voters want to see Boehner reelected as Speaker, while 60 percent said they’d like to see someone new.

The survey was supervised by Democratic pollster Pat Caddell.

In his statement on Saturday, Massie rattled off a litany of reasons why he’s voting against Boehner. He’s frustrated with GOP leaders for scheduling a possible government shutdown in a lame-duck session right before Christmas “to get maximum leverage over rank and file members,” misleading members, giving them little time to read bills over 1,000 pages long, and booting some conservatives from committees for voting against leadership on key legislation.

“With a process this broken, is it any wonder that Washington no longer works for the people?” Massie asked. “My constituents expect better and America deserves better.”

—This story was updated at 8:40 a.m. Monday.

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